Cartier: The terms ‘privacy’ and ‘social media’ are contradictory; biggest danger is ourselves (column)
March 25, 2018
With every photograph and opinion post, every connection made, every pet and food image posted, we open our private lives for public consumption. We create our ideal selves on social media to prove our popularity, intelligence, connections and professional acumen and to make everyone jealous of just how perfect we truly are.
Now, back to the real world. While we don't publish the photos of how we look after a grueling weekend or talk about the latest family squabble, our growing collection of bills or discuss the details of how we totally blew that important client meeting, most of us do realize that those things are also a part of life — it's just not the part we advertise.
Our posts disclose a trend of personality, interests, focus, background, beliefs and other elements of character. This collective information is more revealing than any singular post.
We also open ourselves to personal security issues. While we may not list an address, we refer to neighboring places or events, display photos of children in sports uniforms, pictures of our homes, cars, offices, landscapes, places we vacation, all of which allow anyone to identify exactly where we might be at any specific time.
This information spreads beyond social media. Many phone apps, retail outlets, even secure sites will give the option of signing in with Facebook or Google. It's convenience for us but data for them. In the fine print, it is permission to access photos, friends, posts, demographics, messaging and other personal information. This accommodation subjects us to increased vulnerability with identity theft, computer hacking and physical tracking. Voter enticement seems mild by comparison.
Even email is risky. According to Gmail, users should have no expectation of privacy in email that they send. "A person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties" (Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 743-44 (1979).
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Electronics designed to make life easier do so by submitting data to third parties. From "smart" appliances to your GPS, you are monitored like a spy in an ankle bracelet, except you are a prisoner to convenience. A debit card, a retail loyalty card, Siri/Alexa/Google searches, Netflix, Kindle, GPS … all are conveniences that require data, which we freely provide to third parties. Combined, they create a composite and traceable pattern of activities, motivations and predictable behavior.
Facebook has been in the news for security breaches, yet are they really breaches, when we have voluntarily supplied the information, much of it approved for public consumption? Perhaps we are simply offended that our sense of individualism has been grouped into ordinary categories, with predetermined outcomes.
According to The Guardian newspaper, Cambridge Analytica compiled data from Facebook using quizzes and created profiles that were used to determine political tendencies and then designed a political social media campaign for then-candidate President Donald Trump.
The outrage might appear genuine if it were not for the creative praise given by the same newspaper to a prior presidential candidate in 2012. According to Ben Shapiro, The Guardian reported that Obama's re-election team was "building a vast digital data operation that for the first time combines a unified database on millions of Americans with the power of Facebook, to target individual voters to a degree never achieved before."
They go on to say that Obama's new database would be gathered by asking people to log in to Obama's re-election site using their Facebook credentials; further stating, "Consciously or otherwise, the individual volunteer will be injecting all the information they store publicly on their Facebook page — home location, date of birth, interests and, crucially, network of friends — directly into the central Obama database.
The article quotes Obama's director of integration and media analytics, saying during the 2012 campaign, Facebook "was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn't stop us once they realized that was what we were doing." She added, "They came to (the) office in the days following the election and were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn't have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side."
Didn't it seem odd that Obama visited the headquarters of Facebook in April 2011 just to discuss taxes and Medicare? Facebook is merely an outlet for the information we freely provide, and advertisers, including political campaigns, will utilize that intelligence. The most dangerous breach to our privacy is actually us.
Jacqueline Cartier is a political and corporate consultant in Colorado and Washington, D.C. For further information, visit http://www.cartierwinningimages.com. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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